Ian Carey Quintet+1, ROADS & CODES
For the last decade, Bay Area trumpeter/composer Ian Carey has been developing his singular, post-bop-inflected music with a stable quintet of formidable improvisers, documented in the CDs "Sink/Swim" (2005) and "Contextualizin'" (2010). In recent years Carey has wanted to explore more complex writing, and move further away from head-solo-head conventions.
The result is "Roads & Codes," Carey's most ambitious and fully realized recording to date, which will be released February 19 by his Kabocha Records label. Recorded in an 11-hour, nine-tune marathon in early June 2012, the music on the new CD was inspired by the compositional skills of seminal figures like Jimmy Giuffre, Bill Holman, Teddy Charles, Andrew Hill, George Russell, Herbie Hancock, and Maria Schneider (with whom he studied at New School in New York City). Delving into his lush and intricate original compositions as well as his renditions of music by Stravinsky, Charles Ives, and Neil Young, Carey artfully maintains a precarious balance between finely calibrated arrangements and unfettered improvisation.
What elevates "Roads & Codes" from an audacious experiment to an impressive jazz achievement is Carey's Stellar band, a highly cohesive ensemble for which he's been composing since 2002. The only newcomer is the +1 alto saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, a Dolphyan player who has earned a vaunted reputation for her work with several noteworthy ensembles.
A longtime admirer of Knudsen's work, Carey recruited her to expand the textural possibilities of his long-running quintet. She provided a creative jolt with a "musical language that's amazing to me," Carey says. "She doesn't do anything in a simple or predictable way." The quintet's charter members include tenor saxophonist/flutist Evan Francis, who has since departed for New York City, pianist Adam Shulman, bassist Fred Randolph, and drummer Jon Arkin, all musicians in high demand.
"Roads & Codes" is further distinguished by Carey's design and illustration work for the CD package. He incorporated his love of graphic novels and Japanese manga into "Roads & Codes," including the slyly self-referential cover art that explains his illustrations as part of a strategy for attracting a wider audience. Expertly mixing his two creative outlets, Carey produced beautifully rendered illustrations to represent each tune.